Indigenous Calendar March, 2013: Indigenous Intha Market Day

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Any opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the policies of The Peoples of the World Foundation. Unless otherwise noted, the author and photographer is Dr. Ray Waddington.

'The market' is one of those terms that conjure different images to different people. In the world's larger financial centers such as New York, London and Tokyo it is a term commonly associated with their respective stock, currency and commodity markets. In farming circles the term would almost always be used to refer to a livestock or food market — sometimes wholesale or sometimes retail as in 'farmers' market.' To many of us a visit to the local corporate-chain supermarket is our only experience of 'the market.'

In many parts of the world, though, the form of 'the market' has not changed since it first came into existence. In human history markets are a relatively recent phenomenon. Most of our history is one of both hunting and gathering and of subsistence animal domestication and farming. Only as agriculture was better understood and techniques such as irrigation invented did societies produce enough surpluses to justify the toil of having a central trading location — which often took a day or more to reach. In fact the modern world developed from these humble beginnings and would not have been possible without them.

The agricultural aspects of Burmese life were little changed by one-and-a-quarter centuries of British rule. So Burma (Myanmar) is one of those places where almost any form of market today is little changed from thousands of years ago. This is particularly true in rural Burma where most of its indigenous population lives.

One of Burma's indigenous peoples are the Intha. Because they live around, and in some cases on, a large lake (called Inle) many of their markets are floating markets. There are, of course, many floating markets around the world but because Inle Lake has many tourist attractions it has become a relative tourism hotspot.

I spent a few days on the lake visiting and photographing the Intha. Many scenes were worthy of photography and this one caught my eye as much as any of them. One thing I've noticed at markets everywhere is that in addition to the actual traders there are always local people selling food and drink. This Intha lady was selling large rice cakes. Although it may appear that she had sold most of them at the time of the photo, she needed occasional respite from the heat (it was summer). This is the reason why there is so much space in her 'pantry.'

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